Computer Discipline

I’ve seen a vast wide range in norming student computer etiquette in classrooms. From being laissez-faire and figuring, “well the school of hard knocks will eventually teach ’em if they are fooling around on their computers”, and looking the other way as students hack away getting themselves further down a rabbit hole of negative consequences. To the opposite point of view of wearing that commando uniform and not allowing students to open their Chromebooks or log-in until the word “go”. Having volunteers that organize the Chromebook cart and plug them in each day. And Holding a hard line of “No Fidgeting on the computer.” “If you must fidget, do it on the desk, notebook, or something else, but not the computer.” The latter is the style I’ve embraced this year. When the kids come into class, the computer numbers, along with student names to which they are assigned, are projected onto the front screen along with the day’s Pear Deck log-in code. So, students must use a particular computer each time. This way, we can track down any problems to a particular student. I usually have started my 6 different Sessions (for 6 academic classes) before the students arrive. That way I don’t have to open any new sessions throughout the day, only close and save them with the name of the class period. The computers are all over the desks, and the kids immediately begin rearranging the room placing Chromebooks on the tables of other students they know, but haven’t yet arrived. So I praise and reward them for helping out their neighbors. As a result, there’s less...

Pear Deck in the Science Classroom

If you break down the teaching of Science into its most basic form, all the way to binary, I figure it’s “Thinking” & “Explaining”. “Thinking” is usually taught through experimentation and manipulation. So, everybody probably agrees that a good Science teacher’s room is active with loads of manipulatives, demos, and experiments. But, it’s that “Explaining” half of the equation that is particularly difficult to teach. Many students arrive below grade level in reading, writing, and math skill. We often see large divides between our students’ ability to think vs. explain. The reasons for this problem are debatable. But, we teachers are not hired to “solve” the problem, only to help the child overcome it. What I’m advocating is the use of the best tool in our teaching arsenal; formative assessments. Some simple examples of when you use them are when you have kids show a thumbs up, sideways, or down for checking understanding. When you make them “think-pair-share.” Or when you use an exit ticket. So, it’s those times for student reflection that really get most of the class understanding the material. I believe the most powerful computerized formative assessment tool is Pear Deck, due to its seamless integration with the Google environment, and multi-modal student response features. What other program allows for drawing, coloring, and typing all in the same answer? It’s a formative assessment platform that displays exemplars in real-time. Students get to see well formatted models and answers, discussions can ensue, and everybody can make changes bringing up the level of the entire class. With this Google Add-On, the teacher can start a lesson by finding...

Why does a Balloon Rise? Misconceptions and Formative Assessment

Much of conceptual reasoning in the science classroom is best understood through starting with misconceptions, realizing the underlying causes, then reinforcing those causes with other similar concepts. Having taught my 6th graders movement physics earlier this year, they were already familiar with gravity and acceleration. They had been shown that gravity IS an acceleration, but most were not yet proficient with how the two concepts relate. The next part of this States of Matter unit, is about Boyle’s and Charles’s gas laws. I wanted to bridge this gas unit with our previous unit on thermal energy exchange through changes of state. We made ice cream and measured the thermal energy lost from the cream to melt the ice in the outer bag. Then, the Pear Deck questions reinforced their understanding of gravity and acceleration. So, Friday Feb. 9th, I decided to demo a hot air balloon in class and use Pear Deck formative assessment questions to become the conceptual glue. I got a long trashcan liner from the custodian, and used two kids to help hold the bag as it inflated with excited hot air from a bunsen burner on the floor. For each class we got a “wow” moment as the bag would fly up to the ceiling and slowly fall back down. Then, I had them use table partners to answer two peardeck questions for the remainder of the period. This was the first time we didn’t have enough computers for everyone, so it worked like a Think-Pair-Share with only one computer for every two kids. The first question was simply “Explain what happens to make a...

What does a Science teacher have to learn from a Choir teacher?

Louisville Middle School Choir We’ve got a choir teacher at our school who has a special way of getting his kids to perform. We’re in a middle school of 6th-8th grades. After he gets a group of kids for three years, his concert choir can sing as well as the Mormon Tabernacle choir. Okay, maybe not that good, but they are clearly better than most High School choirs. He is well liked by everyone in the building, and the kids love him. There’s something in his method that makes his class a desirable place to be, as well as demanding more than the kids think they have to give. So, as another teacher in the building, there’s something I can learn from his pedagogy. Our principal has been steadfast in her desire for our staff to communicate and learn from each other, even creating an observation form for visiting our colleagues. So, one of my favorite classes to visit this year has been Profé’s class. The kids are required to enter the class in a hushed silence. They know where to sit. He very kindly talks with most of the students as they come into class, and gets quite personal with several of them. Before they begin an activity he describes not just what they’re about to do, but all about how they will move to the spot, how loud or soft they will talk or move, how they will end, and where they will stand or sit. If anyone is distracted or isn’t paying attention he will have them “reset”, which means go to the door and touch...

Ode to the BIG FINAL EXAM!

When you think about it, when do you remember your introduction to studying? I mean real studying. Not reading over something, or memorizing words, numbers, or steps. You know, when you poured through the material and broke it down. Took notes and worked through the material in a way that taught you the hows and whys of the concept. I’m guessing it was when you took Algebra, or Physics in High School. I think we’d all agree that studying is a gem that can get you those grades you want, and better than that, gives you that value-added skill that can make you successful in life. So, as a middle school teacher I’ve looked at my curriculum and my students and have made decisions with testing and grading that lead me to the conclusion that if a test isn’t hard, students will not study. It’s human nature, right? But, if it’s evil, long, and hard, they will study or die. So, those are the words that my students live by in my class. Study or die. And though I take a lot of pride in getting my students to study, I pay the ultimate price during winter break in grading that huge heavy stack. So, here’s the 1st semester final 2017: 1st Semester Final ex. p1 1st Semester Final ex. p2 1st Semester Final ex. p3 1st Semester Final ex. p4 1st Semester Final ex. p5 1st Semester Final ex. p6 1st Semester Final ex. p7 1st Semester Final ex. p8 1st Semester Final ex. p9 As you can see, this test perfectly fits the bill if you want...